Resource Optimization Initiative

Exterior shot of the front of Old Main

The Resource Optimization Initiative (ROI) initially began in July 2018 as an outcome of the Affordability Task Force, championed by the Board of Trustees, to identify how the University could create better financial controls to minimize costs, enhance University services and fulfill strategic initiatives, such as One Penn State 2025. To assist in these efforts, the University enlisted Huron Consulting Group in April 2018 to identify potential opportunities and provide recommendations.

Following the release of the final Huron report in July 2018, President Barron established eleven workstreams to help drive evolution and plan a long-term overview of operations for the coming years. Over several months, each workstream met with President Barron and the executive team to review their investigations, preliminary recommendations, and estimated cost-savings. Four of these workstreams have been identified as "high priority" and are estimated to save the University over $100 million annually by the fiscal year 2023: Information Technology Modernization, Health and Fringe Costs, Procurement/Strategic Sourcing and World Campus. Each workstream will develop Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), which are quantifiable, outcome-based statements used to measure progress. 

ROI will focus on the implementation of the workstream recommendations, giving the University the opportunity to use its financial, reputational, and operational capacity to rethink investment in students and reframe the conversation around affordability.

Executive Sponsors:

  • Dr. Eric Barron, President​
  • Dr. Nicholas Jones, Provost and Executive Vice President​
  • Dr. Sara Thorndike, Senior Vice President for Finance and Business/ Treasurer​
  • Frank Guadagnino, Vice President for Administration

Project Management Team:

  • Kurt Kissinger, Associate Vice President for Finance and Business/Controller, College of Medicine and Senior Advisor
  • Sue Cromwell, Director, Finance and Business Office of Organizational Excellence and Engagement​
  • Jeremy Bean, Sr. Change Consultant​
  • Amanda Kuo, Data Analyst​
  • Jeffrey VanHorn, Project Manager
  • Toni Vollano, Communications Specialist​


Information Technology Modernization

The IT Modernization Initiative will enable IT to maximize its focus on support. It strives to create a forward-thinking, resilient service organization that is agile and easily adapts to rapid and complex changes. 

Procurement/Strategic Sourcing

Implement Strategic Sourcing initiatives to administer sound supply chain management processes and initiatives across the University to leverage purchasing power and increase contract spend. Learn More

Health and Fringe Costs

Task the existing committee of health insurance experts to address current and future plan savings; investigate potential changes to the retirement plan that are mutually beneficial to both SERS and Penn State. 

World Campus

To meet the growing demand for online education, the University plans to capture latent World Campus demands by expanding its portfolio, which currently offers over 150 programs. Learn More


Communications & Marketing

Provide a thorough assessment of overlap, duplication, and efficiency of the communication operations across the University and identify changes to the communications function that will align marketing and communications resources to University priorities while ensuring that each of the University's distributed entities is appropriately supported. 

Commonwealth Campuses

Evaluating ways the Commonwealth Campuses support Penn State's land grant mission as well as identifying retention and identifying student aid and other retention strategies. 

Financial Transparency

The workstream will focus on developing financial management reports that will provide greater transparency regarding Penn State's operating revenue and expenses. Reporting will incorporate the attribution of central resources to individual units such as SIMBA, the University's new financial system being implemented in July 2020. Also, the workstream will be implementing the recommendations from the Strategic Budget Task Force, to include modification of university budget processes and policies.

Human Resources Transformation

Complete a retrospective survey/analysis of what worked and what didn't in the HR Transformation to ensure: (a) a smooth transition in other areas of transformation that involve centralization of resources and efforts to promote greater efficiency, and (b) improve the effectiveness of HR services delivery. Determine the net changes in staffing and functionality in the HR transformation to date, including a better understanding of actual cost savings.  

Physical Asset Optimization

The Physical Asset Optimization workstream is tasked with developing recommendations around optimizing Penn State’s physical assets and investigating the alignment of various efforts, services, and resources with Penn State’s core teaching, research, and outreach functions. The team has recommended that the University gather and analyze data around potential efficiencies that could be realized through alternative approaches to the University’s  hotels and corporate sponsorships.  Learn More

Non-Sponsored Research Expenditures

Examine the expenditures related to non-sponsored research and assess the appropriateness of the magnitude and breadth of non-sponsored research support. 

Research Administration

Provide a thorough assessment of overlap, duplication, and efficiency of the research support operations across the University. 

Press Releases Related to ROI